Excerpt for A Lecacy of Love by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Legacy of


Copyright 2017 Gabrielle Graham

Published by Gabrielle Graham at Smashwords

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This book is dedicated to my sister Christine who after having gone through all of that, now has to go through all of this.

And you have managed to do so with courage, grace, dignity and laughter.


This is my story of time spent with my brother Roy in the last six months of his life. I became his unofficial carer, his Power of Attorney and the Executor of his Will, but what I remember most was laughing with him. I miss him, and my grief can overwhelm me from time to time but I don’t seem to have an ongoing struggle with what was by all accounts a most difficult time.

The last thing I want to do with this story is to paint Roy as a saint. He was a typical, painful big brother who could tease you to distraction and would drive you crazy just for the fun of it.

What I came to realize during this time is that we truly don’t know what we mean to the people in our lives. I believe that in the last months, weeks and days of Roy’s life he came to know how much he was loved. Our parents had both passed away and my family’s dedication to his well-being was truly moving to watch, as was the endless stream of family and friends who visited at the hospital.

When I look back over those six months I see a beautiful experience full of perfect imperfections. My mistakes, insecurities and neuroses all taught me about the truth of me. The seriousness of this situation brought a clarity that enabled me to let go of a self-image that was no longer relevant. I still struggle with who I am and where I fit in in the world, but I have a better understanding of what is truly important to me and where I want to focus my energy.

This book is a story of my journey to myself and of Roy’s legacy of love.

23rd December 2015 – February 2016

To quote Dolly Parton in Steele Magnolias “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion”. I lived this across the first six months of 2016 while my brother battled his way through cancer. Sadly he passed away on 13th June but he left this legacy through me and my experience of walking side by side with him.

My brother was known by a number of names. He was born Brian James Owen and was Brian to my parents and older siblings. At one time he worked with my husband Brian and another Brian so they nicknamed him Roy, due to being tagged the Big O (Owen) who of course is Roy Orbison. To my nieces and nephews he was either - Uncle Briany, UBJ (Uncle Brian James) or Uncle Roy. To me he is Roy so I will refer to him by this name throughout this story.

We have a large family, eleven in total including our parents, all squeezed together in a small three bedroom home. My parents, Tom and Lucy and then my siblings Peter, Kathy, Colleen, Maureen, Roy - a six year gap - Tony, Marie, me and Chris. I never knew until someone mentioned it in the last days of Roy’s life that he was the middle child of nine. My comment to this statement was “Well, that explains a lot!”

The children in my family were known as “The Big Kids” and “The Little Kids” and though Roy was officially one of the “big kids” and I was officially one of the “little kids”, we ended up hanging out in the same circle of friends for a number of years when I was first married. Roy also knew my husband before I did, due to being his football coach, so our lives were intertwined for a while, which I think started the bond of understanding that we had with each other throughout the last six months of his life.

Disease and death is awful, painful, shocking and many other words that describe the difficulties and harshness of losing someone you love to an illness like pancreatic cancer. But, and I can’t express this strongly enough, my experience, though it included all of the above, was far more dominated by beauty, love, compassion, laughter, light and meaningful memories of thousands of hours spent with my genuinely inspirational brother.

For example Roy was diagnosed on 23rd December which seemed like a cruel time to be told and to let family know. Just prior to a holiday that celebrates family, food, fun and a time for us all to relax and rest a bit before the New Year, when we start the grind all over again.

Roy struggled and felt guilty that he had to let the family know at this time of the year. Though it was really hard to tell everybody, and we were all sad and scared, the bright side was that all of my siblings in Brisbane made it for our traditional Boxing Day celebrations and some of their kids and their kid’s kids. It felt like every other family get together with too many lollies, too much food and drink and loud Owen family fun.

The truth is that there is never a good time to hear this news but what it did at Christmas was to bring us all together a little tighter. It reminded us that family is paramount and how important it is to stay connected, be present and to embrace the great experiences that come from being part of such a large family.

Roy struggled with pain, tiredness and feeling overwhelmed with each person’s reaction to the news, so it was an emotional and difficult day which was hard for all of us. What I also remember though is my family’s ability to make light, to laugh, be raucous and enjoy our time together. We can choose to remember only the hard and difficult elements of being told that our brother had cancer at Christmas. However, included in that memory is; my siblings being there not only to support Roy but each other, all of the kids being loud, funny and cute, all of us being squeezed onto my tiny patio with not quite enough chairs and staying long into the afternoon of what felt like a usual Owen family get together.

Two things established themselves very early in this experience. Firstly I learned to respect that Roy had his own way of working through the process of this diagnosis and coping with all that came along with this illness. Then to recognize how important it was to allow him the space and time he needed to come to terms with it all. I needed to respect that I also had my own way of working through his diagnosis and that I needed space and time to come to terms with the situation. Respect and understanding for both our needs was vital.

On 23rd December moments after Roy told me his diagnosis I said “Don’t be home alone. Come up to our place and stay with us for a while.” To which he responded that he was okay, he had things to do and he would come up on Christmas Eve like we had planned. I fretted all of the next day because I felt he was all alone with the stress and trauma of this diagnosis and initially I found it hard to let that go. Roy stayed Christmas Eve and Night then went home at the end of Boxing Day. Before he left I said to him “why don’t you move in here with us while you are going through this.” He said “Thank you, but I know that at some time in the future I will lose my independence and I want to be independent for as long as possible.” I respected that and did my best to make that possible, even though at times I struggled with doubt and anxieties in the light of my own and others’ concern of his ability to be home alone and care for himself. I quickly came to realize that Roy was comfortable in his aloneness. It was where he got his strength and found his comfort and as it turned out he was at his best when he was at home.

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